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Volvo XC40 Review

8 / 10
29 February 2024

Could one of the least expensive Volvos be the best? The XC40 shows you can have all the desirable Volvo-ness without stretching to one of its bigger models.

The XC40 is assured in wet weather, practical enough for a family and comes with a wide range of engine choices – including plug-in-hybrid and fully electric versions.

What we like:
  • Smart, spacious interior
  • Quiet and comfortable
  • Very safe
What we don't like:
  • Rivals have slightly more rear-seat space
  • Leans in fast corners
  • Snatchy brake pedal

Should I buy a Volvo XC40?

Old Volvo estate cars are affectionately called ‘bricks’, not only because they were styled exclusively with a ruler but also because they’re as solid as a house. Maybe the modern Volvo bricks aren’t the V60 and V90 estates, but this instead.

After all, the Volvo XC40 has the Lego-like look of its predecessors – a blocky stance for a small SUV, which should maximise its appeal to buyers who want something a bit cool looking. And there’s no doubt it’s as safe as a house – the XC40 boasts a glowing five-star Euro NCAP score with a deeply impressive 97% score for adult protection.

But, with rivals as talented as the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes GLA, the XC40 needs more than that. Add in a refined driving experience, decent practicality, a comfortable ride and a wide range of engines, and the XC40 ticks a lot of boxes for growing families and empty nesters alike.

Interior and technology

The XC40’s interior looks smart and classy, even if some of its rivals feel marginally more modern inside. Every XC40 gets a slick digital instrument cluster and a large portrait-oriented touchscreen, which is easy to reach but doesn’t impede on front visibility.

The touchscreen itself is easy to use once you’ve had a little play with it and got used to where some of the submenus are hiding. The main features on the first layer are arranged in a stack, which gives you all your main info at a glance and makes it easy to navigate around the primary functions.

Build quality is very good and the materials used generally live up to Volvo’s premium billing. The suede and leather seats fitted to R-Design trim are a highlight, while the buttons feel solid and the air vent controls feel expensive. However, there are some cheaper trim choices and materials on display in certain areas, so an Evoque or X1 have a slight edge in this area.


In isolation, the Volvo XC40 offers plenty of space for passengers and luggage. Rear-seat legroom and headroom is good, although two very tall adults will struggle to sit one behind the other.

There are lots of storage cubbies dotted around the interior and a square 452-litre boot with a good few tiedowns and hooks – accessed via a powered tailgate on many models.

A BMW X1 is a bit more practical in terms of both rear-seat and boot space, so it’s a better choice if you’re regularly going to be taking tall adults and lots of stuff.

Engines and performance

Over the Volvo XC40’s lifespan, it’s had a fairly wide engine range. These are made up of a couple each of diesel, petrol, plug-in hybrid and fully electric options, so there should be a powertrain to suit nearly every driver.

While the engines themselves haven’t changed all that much, the names have. This non-exhaustive list should steer you clear of confusion around the different names of each engine.

  • Petrol: earlier cars came in T3, T4 and T5 guises; later cars changed these to B3, B4 and B5
  • Plug-in hybrid: Recharge T4 and Recharge T5 cars are now just T5
  • Electric: Recharge P8/ Twin Motor cars are now models in the Volvo EX40 range

T-badged XC40s have a petrol engine, and these became the B-badged engines when mild-hybrid technology was added to save a little bit of fuel. These are ideal for low-to-medium mileage drivers, capable of around 42mpg while offering pleasingly speedy acceleration. Look out for the rare T5 petrol with 247hp if you want to have hot-hatch pace in perhaps the most unassuming way possible.

Diesel engines – badged D3 and D4 – were dropped in 2020, so you’ll have to settle for a slightly older model if you cover lots of miles and want its 50mpg fuel economy.

Volvo is aiming to be a fully electric carmaker by the end of the decade, so the XC40 has gone big on plug-in powertrains. Most of these come with the ‘Recharge’ moniker, which can be a bit confusing if you’re trying to shop only plug-in hybrid or fully electric versions.

Driving and comfort

We’re glad to report that the XC40 distils the solidness and sure-footedness from bigger Volvos into a smaller, cheaper package. It won’t entertain quite as much as a BMW X1, but it offers a fantastic all-round driving experience that we expect most buyers will love.

The ride quality is fantastic, with motorway expansion joints smoothed out to the point where you can barely notice them. There’s occasionally a little bit of low-speed patter, but you’d be more aware of similar road surfaces in an X1 or Q3.

The automatic gearbox is smooth and quiet, almost imperceptible in changing gears. We also found the petrol engines to be really quiet, and yet responsive when you ask for acceleration.

Even the steering feels accurate, although the Volvo’s comfort setup means that it leans a bit in corners.

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